Blocked; Banned; Detained; Jailed!!!
Earlier this year the Cyberspace Administration of China or CAC (the Chinese authority responsible for the censorship of internet) announced the revised regulations on Internet Information Service (互联网信息服务管理办法). While the timing is definitely questionable, one does wonder;
Is the aim of these revised regulation only to benefit CCP’s scrutiny and surveillance of Chinese individuals and organizations? Can these new regulations be a camouflaged attempt to identify and suppress the rising discontent in China? Are these revised regulations yet another weapon in the hands of the Party to weed out all dissent and competition, just like the National Security Law has been for Hong Kong?
“Big Brother is watching”
It is not unknown that since China’s liberation, and especially since Opening Up, China has enforced extreme measures to control the flow of information between the communist state and the politically and ideologically different democratic countries of the World. Various communiques and guidelines have been published; case studies of the once powerful communist USSR and the reasons of her downfall discussed and explained by Xi; speeches and directives guiding people towards the ‘right thought’ have also been issued at an uncommon frequency; However, as the political awareness and the want for freedom to express and discuss started rising among the Chinese citizens, the CCP too started promulgating various forms of censorship, surveillance and punishments , mainly to ensure
Xi’s Party’s control was maintained.
With this very aim, to block politically inconvenient data coming from foreign countries and ‘outlawed’ groups (like Falun Gong followers, Dalai Lama and his teachings, pro-Democracy activists etc), the Party has ensured that access to foreign information sources like Google search,Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, various mobile apps (Clubhouse being the latest one) and news portals are blocked for common citizens. The Party has also started monitoring keywords, expressions, animations, photographs and even emoticons that could ridicule the Party’s leaders or dis-balance it’s control. The most hilarious example being ‘Winnie, The Pooh’, the cartoon character loathed by the CCP. Any message on any social media platform, movies, TV serials, toys etc..with the cartoon character are blocked, banned and deemed punishable.
Such has been the scrutiny of CCP on its own people, to ensure ‘correct political thinking’ and to curb dissent.. And now, with the strategically timed and questionably motivated, Jan 8, 2021’s CAC Revised Regulations, CCP leaves no secret of the Party’s will to tighten control and dominance.
What’s significant about the CAC Revised Regulations?
While there are numerous changes put forward in the revised regulations, for now let’s just understand Article 26, which raises significant suspicion on the motive and timing of these regulations. Some of the online content prohibited under this Article 26 belongs to the category of (a) opposition to the basic principle set forth by the Constitution (b) overthrowing the socialist system or incitement to separatism (c) undermining national religious policies (d) information that disturbs the financial markets (e) information on dangers, epidemics, police, natural disasters, food and drug safety etc.
Weirdly curious isn’t it!!!
These revised regulations coincides with the arrests of various mainland Chinese activists, journalists, lawyers and professionals, who have all been raising these exact questions for quite some time now.
Remember the citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan and the prominent Chinese lawyer (and citizen journalist) Chen Qiushi, both of whom suffered the consequences of asking questions about the Wuhan virus; OR, how about the very recent arrest of the investigative journalist Qiu Ziming and three other bloggers – all they did was demand answers from CCP for the delay in paying homage to the PLA soldiers who were martyred in the Indo-China Clash last year; OR, should we talk about detaining the numerous foreign correspondents (and also the Chinese citizens who work for foreign media outlets) just to restrict them from reporting content that endangered the (now) rickety CCP throne..
It’s a scary thought but it definitely seems as if the CAC’s revised regulations aim to identify and then completely silence whatever little freedom of expression existed in the Chinese cyberspace. And as I ponder on this now, the 2017’s CCP declaration after the 19th National Congress seems quite significant:-